Web Accessibility for Older Adults

In recent years, discussions of web accessibility have become much more prevalent. Much like the wave of physical accessibility legislation that led to new buildings being built in a much more accessible way and old buildings being appropriately retrofitted, we are now recognizing that everyone has the right to access websites and digital services in a way that works for them. This means that the responsibility is on business owners to ensure their website is accessible, rather than on the consumer to find a way to access the web. 

Why is Web Accessibility for Older Adults Important?

Many people in different age groups have a disability, but aging increases the likelihood of disability. Over 46% of adults over 60 have a disability. Because older adults also have increased difficulty using the internet and are less likely to have access to broadband, this enhances the need for websites to strive for accessibility. It’s imperative that websites are easy to navigate and have accessible features once seniors reach them so they can be used as intended.

Common Practices that Increase Web Accessibility for Older Adults

There’s a broad range of measures website owners can use to enhance accessibility. When you’re building or retrofitting an accessible site, it’s important to be conscious of all disabilities that impact how people use the web, from motor impairment to vision impairment and more. The accommodations below can be especially helpful for older website users.

High-Contrast Colors

For those who are visually impaired or colorblind, using high-contrast colors can make text much more readable. To achieve high contrast, you need to be aware of the degree of contrast between the background color and the text. If you’re confused about how to measure contrast, you can use this guide to help figure out whether your existing contrast is sufficient. As an added bonus, using colors that have significant contrast improves the experience for not only older people or vision-impaired people but also those viewing your site from a smaller screen (i.e. a smartphone) or an older or lower-quality monitor.

Content with Subtitles

When designing an accessible site, it’s a no-brainer to include subtitles with any audio or video content. Some business owners balk at the time investment required to put complete, accurate subtitles on all of their content, but it’s a must. If you embed videos into your site using many large video services, such as YouTube, closed captions can sometimes be turned on automatically without the need for transcription. 

Using subtitles goes beyond accessibility, too. It enables people to consume your content when they are in an area where they want to be quiet or just feel more like reading than listening. When it comes to television, 4 in 5 young adults (ages 18-25) prefer to consume content with subtitles turned on. Making your content easier and more enjoyable to consume is always a step in the right direction!

Enable Users to Adjust Interface Size to Increase Accessibility for Older Adults

Adjusting the size of both text and clickable elements can be a vital ability for some internet users. While most people can use the zoom function on their own browser, it’s important for you as a website owner to ensure that all of your design elements and interactive features are still readable and usable when the interface size has been adjusted.

Enlarged Text

Beyond enabling users to adjust their interface size without distortion, consider enlarging your text as a general rule. Larger text is easier to read regardless of age or vision quality, and it can make your website more appealing. Check the size of your body text as well as your headings to ensure everything is easily readable. Also, don’t forget that some users have browsers that enable them to expand specifically the text (not the entire page); make sure to take steps to avoid distortion if users are relying on this functionality.

Indicate Interactivity

Once again, this is a good idea for general usability in addition to making your site more accessible for older users. For any interactive elements on your site, clearly state what will happen when the user engages. Buttons should indicate what will happen when they are pressed, and video elements and forms should have clear instructions. This way, you can avoid confusing users and make sure everything that happens on your site is straightforward and builds trust with viewers.

Be Clear About Abbreviations

Unfamiliar abbreviations can be confusing for anyone, but especially for senior users. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to avoid confusion. Just remember to list out the full term when you first reference it on the page, then indicate the abbreviation in parentheses. For example, in an article about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you could list out the term as shown in this sentence and then refer to it simply as SEO on the rest of the page. Using this technique should be a standard practice in your writing and can help avoid confusion for users of all ages.

Are you wondering how to make your website accessible for other groups? Get in contact with us today for a free accessibility audit.

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Chantelle Gossner

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